President's pro bono awards cite those in the community
who are outstanding in providing free legal services to the poor
Three of every four impoverished Californians cannot afford legal assistance with their civil legal problems. Despite the widening gap, hundreds of attorneys donate their time to help.
This year, 12 attorneys and two law firms are the recipients of the 1996 President's Pro Bono Service Awards, given annually in recognition of the winners' outstanding provision of free legal services to the poor.
The awards are granted to attorneys in each of the State Bar's nine districts, as well as to a retired attorney and a law firm in northern and southern California.
This year's award recipients are:
Dennis S. and Elisabeth W. Harvey of Chico. The Harveys, who practice family law as a two-attorney firm, developed and staff the monthly Low-Income Divorce Workshop and the Low-Income Divorce Clinic run by Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC).
Both are longtime members of LSNC's pro bono panel and handle individual pro bono family law cases in addition to their work for the clinic and workshop.
Victoria M. Jacobs of Sacramento. Jacobs has been a volunteer since 1989 for the Voluntary Legal Services Program (VLSP), where her fundraising and program development efforts have resulted in increased financial resources of about $40,000 a year and a new guidebook for volunteers.
Jacobs also serves on the Bar Council of the Sacramento County Bar Association, and is a board member of Women Lawyers of Sacramento and a pro tem judge with the Sacramento Small Claims Court. She is a partner in Murphy & Jacobs, a Sacramento law firm specializing in business, insurance, estate planning and probate.
Geoffrey L. Robinson of Walnut Creek. A litigation partner with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, Robinson handles a wide variety of pro bono cases, including several impact cases for Planned Parenthood (one of which went to the California Supreme Court), and represents individuals referred through the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Recent efforts included helping a disabled woman obtain insurance benefits and assisting with a low-income housing project.
He also provides pro bono assistance to Contra Costa Senior Legal Services and has served on his law firm's pro bono committee for four years.
Kathryn E. Kirkland of San Francisco. A certified family law specialist in private practice, Kirkland volunteers with the Family Law Project, Legal Advice and Referral Clinic and the Cooperative Temporary Restraining Order Clinic of the Bar Association of San Francisco's Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP).
Last year, Kirkland carried six pro bono cases, many involving complex custody and domestic violence issues, trained and mentored new volunteer attorneys, and updated part of a family law manual.
Catherine F. Campbell of Fresno. A sole practitioner appellate attorney, Campbell's pro bono work centers on prisoners and their families. She is president of Prison Focus, a nonprofit human rights organization which monitors conditions of confinement in California prisons, and co-director of the Central Valley Institute for Criminal Justice.
She currently serves as co-counsel in a class action involving health care for women inmates in two state prisons, and in two cases representing the families of prisoners who were shot and killed by guards at Pelican Bay and Corcoran prisons.
Tina L. Rasnow of Westlake Village. Rasnow is a sole practitioner emphasizing real estate, construction defect and land use litigation. A longtime volunteer with Channel Counties Legal Services Association (CCLSA), she has written and argued on behalf of clients in cases involving education and government benefits issues.
Currently, Rasnow serves as co-counsel with CCLSA representing a single mother in a dispute with a home building contractor. She also provides counseling to individuals about home equity fraud claims and consumer problems with businesses.
Irene M. Mak of Northridge and Marcia L. Scully of Los Angeles. A sole practitioner primarily in family law, Mak volunteers twice a week for San Fernando Valley Neighbor-hood Legal Serv-ices in its Domes-tic Violence Clinic, and serves as the agency's pro bono attorney for restraining orders.
She represents all clinic clients at their hearings, supervises other volunteers, and also accepts family law and paternity cases through the agency's family law pro bono panel.
Scully is deputy general counsel at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern Califor-nia. As the attorney for the Lin-coln Place Ten-ants' Association of Venice, which includes senior citizens, minorities and low-income individuals, Scully's efforts have focused on maintaining affordable housing.
She challenged the Lincoln Place owner's plans to demolish his apartments, and her advocacy set important precedents for the benefit of low-income tenants.
Diana R. Griffiths of Irvine. A sole practitioner focusing on family law and housing issues, Griffiths has assisted more than 20 clients of the Public Law Center during the past year.
Her pro bono work involves primarily family law and domestic violence issues, and she regularly represents clients seeking restraining orders.
In addition, she helped develop a legal services clinic for local residents facing discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status. The clinic will be offered at Orange County's Gay and Lesbian Service Center.
Dianne L. Woodcroft of San Diego. Woodcroft, a sole practitioner, received the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program's Distinguished Service Award for the past two years for her work in AIDS law, family law, domestic violence prevention and the Children's Hospital Clinic Program.
Last year, she managed and operated SDVLP's weekly clinic at the hospital's Family Violence Project. She also volunteers at the Family Law Access Project and is pro bono counsel for the AIDS Legal Services Project.
In addition, Woodcroft trains and recruits legal volunteers and mentors less experienced lawyers on substantive and procedural areas of family law.
Northern California firm
Munger, Tolles & Olson of San Francisco. Since it was founded in 1981, MTO's eight-person San Francisco office has devoted 15 percent of its total attorney hours to pro bono work.
During the past year, the firm successfully represented a habeas petitioner in a case challenging the effectiveness of trial counsel. It also is co-counsel in a habeas corpus petition challenging a defendant's capital sentence.
MTO has represented a class of homeless people in a case challenging San Francisco's "Matrix" program, which prohibited sleeping in public by homeless individuals.
The firm also represents low-income clients in day-to-day matters, staffing the weekly clinic of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and handling family law matters through the Bar Association of San Francisco's Volunteer Legal Services Program.
The firm also received the ABA's Pro Bono Publico Award for 1996.
Southern California firm
O'Melveny & Myers of Los Angeles. O'Melveny & Myers, with 540 attorneys in nine offices worldwide, has a long history of commitment to pro bono work.
In 1995, the firm's efforts in southern California included:
The firm also handled political asylum cases, post-conviction habeas corpus proceedings, and transactional and tax work for dozens of non-profit organizations.
Northern California retired attorney
A.Zettler "Zett" Greely of Santa Cruz. Greely started his pro bono career in 1987 working for the Long Beach Legal Aid Foundation while studying for the bar exam. Although permanently disabled from lung cancer and the side effects of radiation, he passed the California bar exam in 1988, 30 years after becoming a lawyer in Ohio.
When he moved to northern California in 1990, he began donating between 20 and 30 hours per week to the Legal Aid Society of Santa Cruz County.
Last year, he represented about 180 low income clients, most with landlord/tenant problems. Most were resolved without litigation, and he obtained significant awards for clients in several cases.
Greely was honored in 1995 by the Santa Cruz Bar Association as one of two Pro Bono Lawyers of the Year.
Southern California retired attorney
Richard P. McManus of San Diego. As a participant in the State Bar's emeritus attorney pro bono program, McManus helped form the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program's (SDVLP) north county guardianship program. Last year, the program served 150 guardianship petitioners seeking to care for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents.
McManus also handles a small pro bono caseload, and he works with SDVLP's domestic violence restraining order clinic and its family law access project.
In his volunteer activities, McManus provides direct legal representation to clients, recruits, trains and mentors volunteer attorneys, coordinates with judges and court staff, and develops and adminsters policies and procedures.